It’s perfectly normal and not all that concerning if you feel resentful occasionally. We all do. And it’s not necessarily a sign that something’s wrong or that you need to make a big change.
But if you struggle with feeling chronically resentful, that’s another story and is almost certainly a sign that you need to ask some deeper, and likely harder, questions about yourself and your relationships.
Here are a few brief tips to help you deal with and ultimately let go of chronic resentment…
1. Think of resentment as a verb, not a noun.
It’s something you do, not something that happens to you. You don’t feel resentful because of what happens to you or what other people do. You feel resentful because of how you think: Constantly replaying events in your mind of how you were hurt or wronged, for example. Or being unwilling to express how you feel or ask for what you really want because you’re worrying about how other people will feel.
You can’t let go of resentment until you take responsibility for it.
2. Ask yourself: What job is my resentment doing?
If you feel chronically resentful it’s because, as we discussed above, you have certain mental habits that maintain it. But what maintains those mental habits, those resentment-producing ways of thinking?
All habits stick around because we get something out of them—that is, they do a job for us. For example, if you drink too much alcohol before or during social gatherings, the job that alcohol is doing is to alleviate your social anxiety. Which means if you want to stop drinking so much, you need to get that need met in a healthier way.
So ask yourself: What job is my resentment doing? Is it boosting your ego by making you feel like a victim? Is it giving you a false sense of certainty or control? Maybe it’s simply keeping your mind occupied with something familiar?
If you want to get rid of resentment, you need to understand what need it’s filling, and get that need addressed in a healthier way.
3. What is my resentment helping me avoid?
Are you using resentment as a form of procrastination?
Do you replay events from your past when someone wronged you because it helps you avoid having to think about your goals and dreams for the future (which terrify you)? Do you complain about your spouse or partner in your head because it helps you avoid the anxiety of being assertive and actually asking for what you want (or don’t want)?
Resentment is almost always a sign of procrastination. If you want to be free of it, ask yourself what important thing you need to address, and go do it.
If you found this interesting or helpful, here are a few more articles where you can learn more:
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Thank you for this perspective. Verb v noun opened my eyes a bit more.
Excellent way of looking at it. To resent chronically is a very self destructive way of being. It stops one taking on so many opportunities and possibilities in one’s life.
This article is enormously helpful and spot in! I was never allowed to show emotions as a child so held them all in – wasn’t allowed to be angry or even excited (too noisy) we grew up like robots!! “Ask for what you want”is a great tool. I need to use it more!!
This article helped me think of things differently. Where my resentment stems from and how to deal with it in a healthy manner. Thank you. I’m very grateful.
I am very resentful of all the unnecessary hurt that others have caused me
oh boy you have lots of work to do~
it not what “they do to YOU,” rather, “it’s what they DO.”
As always, Nick, you put your finger on it. This advice is very useful and relevant to my response to my spouse. Over the years I have gradually managed to deconstruct that resentment (victim mentality, fear of expressing negative emotions) and channel it into a healthier, happy relationship by establishing boundaries, learning assertiveness and non violent communication. But the lessons keep getting harder. Now I am stuck with resentment towards a neighbour… I understand the why, but assertiveness only goes so far where there is no trust or desire to build a relationship. I feel like I need to let go of my desire to be friends, mourn and let go, but I am still stuck with the shoulds and if onlys. How can such a minor relationship take up so much valuable headspace? How can I let go of the desire to be friends and stop caring what they think of me, feeling like I have failed?
Hi, All your articles are excellent and helpful! Thanks for sharing! Maybe someday you can write an article about “Is it boosting your ego by making you feel like a victim?” I can´t see how being a victim can boost an ego. I can´t see it.
Best wishes to you and your beautiful family.
Yes, from each and every articles of your’s its a good and true learning towards life,
thanks a lot